As Minnesota running back Ted Brown limped across the dressing room, someone asked if he felt he had earned his $10,000 playoff money.
"Every cent of it and more," Brown said after running five yards into the end zone with 1:44 left to give the Vikings a 30-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the first round of the NFL playoffs today.
Brown was knocked out of the game in the first half with a shoulder injury but came back to lead the Vikings' winning drive that sends the Vikings against the Washington Redskins at 12:30 p.m. EST Saturday in RFK Stadium.
"It makes up for it (the pain) a little bit that we won," Brown said, adding it was the most physically punishing game he has ever played in. "But it still hurts. But you have to distinguish pain from injury and go on."
The winning touchdown run was on a play called by running back Rickey Young and set up by a Young block.
"Rickey made a dynamic block," Brown said. "I was admiring it so much I hesitated. The hole was so wide open."
The Viking defense played as much a part as the offense, limiting the Falcons to only 115 yards passing. It sacked Falcon quarterback Steve Bartkowski three times and limited him to nine completions.
"You don't have to sack a quarterback or knock him down," Vikings Coach Bud Grant said. "We have a category called hurries and we used a few of those today."
"We got beat today by a defensive football team that I thought whipped our offensive football team," Atlanta Coach Leeman Bennett said. "I thought our offense left a lot to be desired."
The winning score came after the Falcons had taken a 24-23 lead and the Vikings drove 72 yards. Brown, who rushed for 82 yards, had 21 yards on the final drive to set up the score.
Minnesota cornerback John Turner, who intercepted a pass to kill an Atlanta drive in the first half, did it again with 27 seconds left to kill the Falcons' last hope.
Minnesota held a 13-7 edge at the half but gave up two quick touchdowns to the Falcons on a fake field goal and and pass interception.
Atlanta appeared to get its offense going. Bartkowski, who completed only three passes in the first half, completed three in the Falcons' drive to the Viking 17. But the drive stalled and place kicker Mick Luckhurst set up to attempt a 35-yard field goal. But holder Mike Moroski took the snap, ran right and lateraled to Luckhurst who ran in for the touchdown. It was the first run for Luckhurst in the NFL.
Two minutes later the Falcons struck again. Safety Bob Glazebrook intercepted a pass by Tommy Kramer on the Vikings' 35 and raced through tacklers into the end zone, giving the Falcons a 21-13 lead.
Minnesota came back with Rick Danmeier's third field goal, a 39-yarder with 2:07 left in the third period.
The Vikings forced the Falcons to punt and Rufus Bess returned it 20 yards to the Atlanta 39. Ten plays later, Kramer, who completed 20 of 34 for 253 yards and two touchdowns, hit wide receiver Sam McCullum with an 11-yard touchdown pass to take the lead back.
But Atlanta took the lead again, 24-23, with a 41-yard field goal by Luckhurst with 6:45 left.
Forced to punt on the first series of the game, Viking punter Greg Coleman fumbled the snap and then had his kick blocked by linebacker Paul Davis. Atlanta defensive end Doug Rogers recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.